Why This Works

Hello, and welcome to an occasional series in which I guess, using nonscientific means, why something works. By occasional, I mean a series that I might forget about until six months down the road. And then I’ll go, “Oh yeah, I started that series. I should do another installment.”

And yes, I’ll reveal the winner of Playing for the Devil’s Fire by Phillippe Diederich also. **CoughJillWeatherholtcough.** See what I did there? 🙂 (Congrats, Jill!)

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In a previous post, I mentioned Miraculous: Tales of LadyBug & Cat Noir, a French animated series released internationally. Okay, I didn’t mention the international release in that previous post. I’m telling you that stuff now. The concept came from Thomas Astruc, an animator aided by Jeremy Zag, the cofounder of Zagtoon, and later by Method Animation, Toei Animation, SAMG Animation, and SK Broadband, to introduce a series starring a female superhero who saves the citizens of Paris. Thomas Astruc also is the writer and director of the show. Thanks also to other financial partners like Bandai, Curlstone, and Disney, people around the world can see this show. In the States, we can see the English dubbed version on Nickelodeon.

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Ladybug is a French teen (Marinette Dupain-Cheng) with a crime fighting partner—Cat Noir (Adrien Agreste), who goes to her school in Paris. Neither knows the alter ego of the other. You’d think identification would be obvious, since Ladybug has the same hairstyle and easily identifiable eyes the color of bluebells as Marinette. And Adrien’s artfully styled blond hair is the same, though his eyes are somewhat changed due to his mask. Sigh. It’s the same principle as superheroes like Superman, where a pair of glasses is all that stands between someone identifying him as Clark Kent. You have to suspend disbelief so hard, you almost get whiplash.

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I’ve seen about fifteen episodes of the show. And I can tell you that in every episode, the same scenario plays out. Someone gets his or her feelings hurt. A villain named Hawk Moth (below) releases an evil butterfly (yep—an evil butterfly) called an akuma to “evilize” the hurt individual. This action completely subjugates that person’s will to Hawk Moth’s control and turns him or her into a villain. What does Hawk Moth want? The tiny creatures called kwami who live in the Miraculous jewelry that empower Marinette and Adrien for a limited amount of time. He also wants total power. So he uses innocent people to wreak havoc. But Ladybug has a special ability to “de-evilize” the person under Hawk Moth’s control. (Next time you do something wrong, you might use the akuma as an excuse. I plan to.)

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Some of the scenes are very repetitive. In every episode you see the same Ladybug/Cat Noir transformation scenes, hear the same dialogue (“Tikki, spots on!”/“Plagg, claws out!”), and see the same scene where Ladybug de-evilizes someone. Also, the characters do not break new ground in general. Marinette is the clumsy teen who longs for hot-guy Adrien. How many times have we seen the clumsy girl in a story? Dozens. A rich diva at school picks on everyone (except Adrien) and has a sycophant friend. Sounds like the storyline of Mean Girls.

So why are the people who watch this show (including myself) obsessed with it? The “incredible graphic design” as Aton Soumache, the CEO of Method Animation, explained in an interview on one of the Miraculous DVDs. And this is all thanks to Thomas Astruc and Nathanaël Bronn, the art director on the show. The show has a manga look with a gorgeous Parisian backdrop. Thus, the characters are attractive and winsome, and the action sequences inventive and entertaining. For example, in each episode, Ladybug gains an object to use to foil Hawk Moth’s plan. She has to figure out how to use what she has to defeat the “evilized” person. Sometimes, the method involves a MacGyver-like bit of ingenuity.

And each episode also has a touch of romance. As I mentioned, Marinette pines over Adrien, who views her as a friend. But Cat Noir pines over Ladybug, who finds him annoying. Most of all, this is a fun show where superheroes save the day while learning something about themselves.

What I love about this production, is that people around the world have banded together to produce and distribute it. They’re committed to the cause. And that is the number one reason why this show works: it has a committed group of people behind it. Wouldn’t we all like that level of commitment behind our creations?

Ladybug and Cat Noir images from fanpop. Hawk Moth from nick.com. Author photo by Selina Roman. Book cover from Goodreads.

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30 thoughts on “Why This Works

  1. Probably off topic here, but I recently read an article about how the Superman glasses disguise is more effective than we realize. Test subjects were shown side-by-side pictures of people with and without glasses. They had a 70% success rate in guessing if it was the same or different person. Now, that’s only side-by-side, which you never get with Superman and Clark Kent. Also, we think it’s foolish because we know the connection already and are observers. A person in that world would never think they are the same person, so they’d overlook the signs. These are also made more difficult by Clark acting and moving differently than Superman. So, the glasses are actually useful in making the face look different and complete the persona of a mild-mannered reporter.

    • I don’t think it’s off topic. It gets at assumptions made about effective disguises. But the use of eyeglasses as a disguise or a revealer/concealer of beauty is (in my opinion of course) overused in TV and movies. In romance movies, a person suddenly becomes beautiful by removing her glasses.

      I know a lot of people who wear contacts, but who rest their eyes by putting on eyeglasses. So I’ve seen them with and without their glasses. They look the same to me.

      • It does get overused, but it is an effective and cheap method. I think we tend to overlook the simplicity of such things and dub them as cliches. Not everyone can get those face masks from Mission Impossible and those feel like they’d be even more suspicious. I do agree with the ‘remove glasses and flip hair’ thing that gets used. Aren’t those characters left blind?

        You also know those people personally, so you’re used to the details of their face. With superheroes, it’s really a famous stranger that you’re looking at. There are shows out there where celebrities. For example:

      • It’s always weird to me to hear Henry Cavill talking in his normal British accent. I guess I can see why no recognized him. You don’t expect to see celebrities walking around. And I guess people don’t really look at other people for long. I barely glance at the people with whom I ride the train. So if one of them is a superhero or a celebrity, I wouldn’t know. 🙂

      • I haven’t read a Superman comic book in awhile. I thought about getting another subscription. But things like subscriptions go out the window when you don’t have any money!

      • I know. That’s why I haven’t touched a new comic in years. DC rebooted everything recently, so the old stuff doesn’t count any more. It has me curious, but not enough to spend food money.

      • Haven’t seen one of those in a while unless you count ‘Lego Movie’. I’ve been rather mild on my fiction TV watching. A few of my shows come back tonight, but only one has me really interested.

      • I haven’t seen any TV at all in weeks with the exception of episodes compiled on a DVD. I don’t watch many shows. Last season I watched Agents of Shield. That was about it.

      • People either like it or ignore it, I’ve found. A guy I know who used to watch it said that he’s done watching it. He’s giving his viewing times to the Netflix shows like Daredevil and Stranger Things.

      • I know someone who said the same about Gotham. I think shows naturally hit a slump where they lose some fans and have to recover before cancellation. I keep thinking of Hercules and Xena getting really strange before they ended.

        I’m just happy ‘Lucifer’ is still fun and entertaining. 😀

      • Not yet. I don’t have Netflix, so I’ll consider it when I can get it from the library. I tend to be very slow and resistant toward shows that fill my FB feed to ridiculous levels. The bar gets set so high.

  2. Congratulation, Jill.
    Well, now . . . I have not seen this show and you have me curious about it. How exciting that it is so well animated and so, what?, universal? I’ll have to take the time to find it and see for myself.
    I’m always learning of something new and exciting to read or watch, L. Marie. Thank you.

    • It seems to be for the 8-12 age range, Penny, due to the relationship conflicts and age of the characters. But the producers designed the show to encourage girls with this female superhero.

  3. I have to ask my grandchildren if they know Miraculous, ladybug and Cat noir.( the Black cat is in Montmartre )
    The frame of this show is Paris ? Perhaps they know this modern fairytale .
    In friendship
    Michel .

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